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Polling Relocation Increases Provisional Votes In City Council Election

Caitlin Plummer |
March 4, 2015 | 7:46 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Downtown Los Angeles residents vote at the Hayward Manor Apartments polling station. (Caitlin Plummer/Neon Tommy)
Downtown Los Angeles residents vote at the Hayward Manor Apartments polling station. (Caitlin Plummer/Neon Tommy)
Marty Culbert pulled up his sample ballot Tuesday morning to find that he was instructed to vote in the same location as every election since 2011. But when he arrived, he found that the polling station had no list of his name.

After traveling to Hayward Manor Apartments, one of the voting stations in Downtown Los Angeles, Culbert found he was in the wrong location again. The voting station workers informed him that his voting booth was actually at the Midnight Mission on San Pedro Street.

“I live on West Fifth Street," Culbert said. "That means I would have literally had to cut across three voting precincts to get to my voting booth."

Culbert is one of many Downtown Los Angeles residents who voted provisionally in the city council election due to the relocation of precinct polling stations. Provisional votes require further processing to verify that the vote is valid. In the case of many voters visiting Hayward Manor Apartments, these votes were necessary to verify that the residents were eligible to participate in the election because their names were not recorded in the station’s voting roster.

Mark Johnson, an election inspector who asked for his name to be changed so as not to affect his job, said his table was one of two precincts moved to Hayward Manor Apartments from the Midnight Mission last week. But according to Johnson, the voters were never notified.

“On our roster of voters – there’s like 800 names in there – not one person has come to sign in that book, because nobody knows we moved from the Midnight Mission to come here,” Johnson said. “So everybody that’s coming here isn’t on anybody’s list, because – for the people that are supposed to be here – it’s been moved.”

According to the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Election Division, the two precinct locations were moved after Midnight Mission contacted the city a few weeks ago and said they could not accommodate four precincts. Instead, Hayward Manor Apartments was designated to house two booths from Midnight Mission in addition to two of its own.

“We do not ever turn voters away,” said Jinny Pak, the chief of the Los Angeles City Clerk Election Division. “If a voter can’t be confirmed at a specific polling place, they are asked to vote provisionally. Provisionally just means that it just takes further processing. We’ll bring it back here, we check every provisional ballot to make sure that they are eligible to vote in this election and if everything checks out, we do count them.”

Though Pak said all voters in the two affected precincts received a ‘change of polling place’ postcard immediately after the change was made, many voters were not pleased with their option to vote provisionally.

“When you have a voter that’s confused, they get upset and they get disenfranchised, and they don’t want to vote,” Johnson said. “The number one goal of voting is never disenfranchise the voters. We have a list of 800 people and if we can get four of them today, we’re lucky.”

Patti Berman, the President of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council for the last five years, arrived at Hayward Manor Apartments after receiving calls and texts about the precinct polling location confusion. Speaking personally, Berman said that Downtown was trying to promote a large voter turnout in this election.

“We want to show the city how Downtown has grown, how much we care about what’s going on here,” Berman said. “If people come in to vote and are told that they have to vote provisionally because they don’t have their names properly, or they haven’t done their homework here, then people are going to be less likely to go out and vote the next time.”

Only 31 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County participated in last November’s general election. According to Berman, the city itself has an even worse track record.

“Unfortunately in Los Angeles, 10 percent, 12 percent – I think one time we made it all the way to 14 percent – of registered voters came out for city elections,” Berman said. “If we can show Downtown to get out and get 20, 30, 40 percent of the registered voters out, then it starts to send the message that people should be getting out there and being part of their government.”

Reach Staff Reporter Caitlin Plummer here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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